Monday, March 31, 2008

En Garde!

A few weeks ago I was listening to a heated discussion on talk radio.  I no longer recall what the debate was about, but something that was said caught my ear and I listened intently for several minutes.  There were two "experts", a man and a woman, with contrasting views.  At one point there was a caller who agreed with the points expert #1 was making.  The caller made several statements to which expert #1 would agree.  After the caller made his last statement, expert #1  replied "touché".  From the context of the conversation and the statement being made by the caller, expert #1 had to have meant "touché" as a word meaning agreement.  Since then I have heard someone on television do the same thing.  And of course, I was very irritated both times.

So, just in case there is anyone out there who isn't sure what touché means or when it should be used, here's the scoop:

The word "touché" is french for "touched", but according to the American Journal of Etymology it is not of French origin.  It is believed that it was probably imported to France from the original Norse language of Norman settlers.

"Touché" is an interjection used in fencing to acknowledge a hit, and it is said by the fencer who receives the hit.  In the 1800s first blood duels were relatively common.  Drawing "first blood", or touching an opponent with the sword tip, was enough to win, and the loser would acknowledge defeat by calling out "touched", or "touché".
The word is used in language today to acknowledge a verbal "hit".  During a debate or argument, one person may acknowledge the other's witty or appropriate response by saying "touché".  But the word is never, ever used to express agreement.